Normalizing Overreaction

Friday night, as I was washing my dishes and thinking about the thing that happened Thursday, I had a flashback to doing dishes with my dad when I was younger. I had accidentally dried a piece of silverware that had not been rinsed and put it in the silverware drawer. My dad was furious because I had just assumed the silverware rinsed instead of asking, and he dumped the entire contents of that silverware drawer into the kitchen sink, and had me wash, rinse, and dry every. single. piece. Until Friday night, the only thought I’ve ever had about that incident is that my family had a ton of silverware. Oh, and if I’m ever doing dishes with my dad, to remember to ask him if he’s rinsed things.

But on Friday night, doing dishes on my own and thinking about the thing, I understood for the first time that it was an overreaction on my dad’s part. And I understood it because I had just been on the receiving end of another overreaction, and I was resisting admitting it.

See, for whatever reason, it’s easy for me to assume responsibility not only for my actions but for others’ reactions as well. Dad dumped the entire silverware drawer into the sink and made you wash, rinse, and dry every last piece? Well, you were the one who dried a piece without asking if it was rinsed. You deserved that. You made that happen.

But, for whatever reason, on Friday night, I was struggling accepting full responsibility for the thing. I mean, I had accepted full responsibility for it on Thursday. Someone reduced six months of your work to nothing? Well, you were the one who mishandled that situation by not communicating. You deserved that. You made that happen. You can’t just pull something like that and expect people not to have a response. Except. You had conversations with three other people about the situation – one of them also on the line because of how you handled things – and none of them had that response. That’s because it wasn’t a normal response. That would not have been a normal response to anybody who did what you did. That was an overreaction.

Cue middle-of-kitchen meltdown. Like, how in the world did I get to this place where I normalize this kind of reaction and accept responsibility for it? How messed up am I to accept these things that everyone else looks at and rejects?

The reality is I was conditioned to normalize it, to accept responsibility for it, to accept the consequences from it. This is the standard to which I was raised. You made this happen. Grin and bear it, babe, because you’ve got no one to blame but yourself. It’s all on you.

And this is the point where I imagine God throwing back His head, laughing and saying, “Lydia, you are not that powerful.”

So I put myself out there and asked for something I wanted.

So I had feelings when that something went to someone else.

So I made the decision to look out for myself, if only passively.

So I experienced an overreaction and spent over twenty-four hours trying to convince myself that I made it happen, that I deserved it, that it was somehow normal and good and right.

So I realized it wasn’t.

And there’s no telling, really, what all it’s going to take to de-normalize others’ overreactions to my actions.

I know I need to have more grace and patience with myself; it’s perfectly acceptable for me to have reactions and responses to anything and everything. Not overreactions, mind you, although I will have those on occasion, too, but it’s okay for things to touch me in a deep enough place where I have to say something, even if no one else on the planet would. They touch me for a reason.

I know I need to find the balance between remaining service-oriented wherever I am while still pursuing opportunities that are worthy of my time, energy, and talents. I have to be able to take pride in what I do and be proud of what I do because it means something to me, because it means something to others. I have to keep asking for and pursuing what I want, not just what I’m given, not just what I have to take.

I know I need to relinquish control, or more accurately, relinquish my idea of control, especially in how people respond, react, and at times, overreact to me. I’m responsible for me. Even in those times when I do upsetting things, I wasn’t created to carry the power of making things right. I can’t make the thing that happened Thursday right. I can’t unmake all the things that led up to the thing. I can’t control what anybody thinks of me – for better or worse – after the thing. I can’t control the consequences of the overreaction for the overreactor.

But I don’t know how to keep my mind from automatically snapping to its default.

I guess I’ll figure it out.

Blah. Fun times.





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